Pres. Yee's City Budget Statement
After weeks of intense hearings and an extremely late night of deliberations, the Board’s Budget & Appropriations Committee finalized a budget. I want to commend the bold leadership of Budget Chair Sandra Lee Fewer and the work of her tireless Chief of Staff, Chelsea Boilard, for shepherding us through a challenging budget process, that has been complicated by the pandemic.
The budget the Mayor presented to us was balanced on a number of assumptions, cuts to essential services and programs, and did not fully address the unmet needs of new initiatives in response of COVID-19. The budget was also balanced on the back of some of our lowest-paid and essential workers, serving on the frontlines of the pandemic, providing critical services for our residents. They were asked to forgo cost of living increases. Given budgetary constraints during a pandemic that has held our future hostage, these considerations were placed on the Board to resolve and required us to make difficult calls.
Overall, the Board worked hard to find savings and restore cuts to critical programs that serve our most vulnerable communities, including rent subsidies to keep seniors and families housed and expanded meals for seniors and low-income residents. We also made a modest, but important investment for the Senior Operating Subsidies (SOS) program I spearheaded. This program ensures that seniors on fixed-incomes are able to actually qualify for affordable senior housing when units become available. We all know how housing insecurity is only going to worsen for our oldest residents.
One of the critical pieces of this budget provides our most underpaid and undervalued nonprofit workers fair wages and protections. These workers are being asked to work extended hours and risk contracting COVID-19 to support Community Hubs that are being established as an emergency service while the school district continues to offer virtual learning for the students. This required us to use a small portion of budgetary reserve. Even with these investments, there will still be $750 million remaining in reserves for use if needed during the challenging months and years to come.
During a time of economic crisis, we need more investments in vital services to get people back on their feet and ready to jump in when we re-open. Studies show us that every recovery in history was accompanied by critical public investments. Cuts only worsened and prolonged recessions.
I am also proud that we were able to successfully win funding for crucial infrastructure support to services in District 7.
I want to highlight some of these important projects: The restoration of the well-loved Triangle Park on Balceta and Vasquez Avenue to better serve seniors and families with children who are in desperate need of usable, open space. This project was partially funded through my Participatory Budget program last year, but this grant will help the next phases to transform the park. This project also fits into our larger vision for the San Francisco Child-Friendly City Initiative, which aims to re-imagine public spaces for the young and the young at heart. We also secured funding for senior services and youth programming for families in District 7.
Lastly, we were also able to support the San Francisco Zoo in deferred capital maintenance. Like other beloved institutions, they have been hit hard during the shutdown and need continued investments to keep their doors open for future generations. The budget also included ongoing funding for the District 7 Participatory Budgeting program, which allows our residents to propose and vote on projects they want to see funded to benefit our community.
This is my final budget and it isn’t everything we had hoped for. Before the current crisis, we all had grander plans, but we have to meet the moment. I want to extend my thanks to my other colleagues on the Budget & Appropriations Committee:
Supervisors Shamann Walton 華頌善, Hillary Ronen, Rafael Mandelman, the staff at the Budget & Legislative Analyst Office, City Controller Ben Rosenfield and his team, the Mayor’s Budget office, and of course my own staff Jen Low and Frances Hsieh. It is through our collaboration that we were able to close the budget and move the City forward towards a more fair and equitable future.